Updated: Feb 22, 2020
I’ve been forced to rest the past week after surgery. While I’ve been going from my house to work and back again the world has exploded with buckets of daffodils and magnolia blossoms. I know this because today I walked back from the river past the studious robins and the sweet croaking of the red winged blackbirds in the thickets. I’ve been thinking about stolen goods. I cut a fistful of cream tulips yesterday, open wide, showing off their red striped throats. I figured they were too tempting for someone to resist, poised on the edge of the raised bed that runs along the side of our house. The children from St Francis Xavier school down the street used to steal daffodils, but they have their own garden now, and my flowers are less tempting. A couple of years ago an old woman liked to take the most spectacular flower in the garden. Once, it was a yellow iris so beautiful everyone stopped to look at it. My neighbor’s son thought she was a witch who stole the magic flower. He had nightmares about her.
John Bartram complained that Thomas Penn’s gardener, James Alexander, stole his suppliers of pine cones and seeds from him. He wrote to his friend Peter Collinson: “I cant imagine how or after what manner or with what James alexander fills so many boxes but this I know he frequents the market & discourses with all the people…when I go to gather seeds where I used to find them the people near where they grow will not let me have them but tell me thay will gather them all to send to London.”
The newspaper yesterday was full of stolen goods. Teenagers here have stolen the idea of flash mobs, running through the streets kicking and pillaging. Bill Wasik “credited with introducing the notion” seemed astonished that someone would want to do something wild. He told the reporter: “It’s terrible that these Philly mobs have turned violent.”
Pope Benedict is in trouble, too, not for theft but for covering up the theft. One priest in Wisconsin molested over 200 boys at St. John’s School for the Deaf in Wisconsin. Can the idea of the garden take care of any of this? Daffodil sap was supposed to heal wounds. Roman armies scattered the bulbs when they traveled north.
I gave a reading yesterday in the library of the university where I teach. After the reading, one of the librarians asked me to talk about my spirituality. I was stumped. It seemed like such a complicated question to answer—I felt like I would be stealing the words from all sorts of people. I think, in the end, I came out sounding like a watered down version of a transcendentalist. How do you combine Catholicism with reason?
It’s colder today and my son is rowing on the river. Yellow tulips have burst out of their green buds. Everything shimmers after rain.